I was not given the interscholastic exams. : Becoming Minnesotan

Francisco and José Trejo with Rusty in Albert Lea, Minnesota, 1955.

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Essential Question

Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

Problems in America: What could have helped this person’s adjustment in the U.S.?

Words to look for


Background Information

Immigrants face many challenges as they adjust to life in a new place that has different foods, housing, music, schooling, transportation, and so many other new things. However, the prejudices and racism they face are the most challenging. Sometimes the prejudice they face may be subtle; others may be judging them using stereotypes or making conclusions based on appearance and not even be aware they are doing it themselves. This is a problem faced not only by new immigrants, but by members of any distinct group in a society.

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  • Chapter 1

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Narrator: José Trejo (JT)

Interviewer: Lorena Duarte (LD)

JT: I graduated from Albert Lea High School. I came in at fifteenth percentile. Out of 320 students, I was number 70 when I graduated, which wasn’t the top ten, but for coming with no English whatsoever six years before…

LD: Six years? Wow.

JT: Yeah, 1954 to 1961. The thing that was really sad about the whole thing is that I had done very well in high school, better than I had expected. I had become vice president of the science club and so on. But, when it came time to take the interscholastic exams, I was not given the interscholastic exams.

LD: Why not?

JT: I was informed that, you know, it would be better for me to go into the military or go to vocational school. It was announced that I should go and take my ACT test, the college entrance exam. I went in to take it. All the tests were passed out the same way. So when I went to ask, “Why don’t I get a test?” they said, “Well, you don’t need a test.” The assistant principal said to me, “You don’t need a test. You don’t have to take it.” I said, “Why not?” He said, “You don’t have to take it. You can go to a vocational school. They don’t need a test for that. Or you can join the military.” One of the counselors by the name of Mr. Anderson, at the time, he was irate. He was irate that this had happened to me. He demanded that I be given the test. So I took the test by myself in a classroom with four monitors present to make sure that I would not cheat.

LD: Oh my God.

JT: So I took my test, and I passed. I scored 96 percentile in English and 92 in math, which were the important ones.

LD: Yeah.

JT: And, you know, I went on to Austin Community College.

Related Glossary Terms


Adjective: Involving two or more schools.


Adjective: Very angry.


Noun: The top percent of a group.

vocational school

Noun:  A school that teaches specific job skills, rather than general academic subjects.


Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
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